We have a responsive page that exports a list into .csv format. For mobile view, what is the optimal way of going about it?

Show the user a notice that exporting is only supported in desktop?

One initial idea was to hide "Export" button in mobile view, however, Android actually does support file downloading. It may not also be a good idea to do browser detection and hide the button only in Safari. Seems like it's not a scalable solution.

  • I saw this functionality, export to CSV, then upload the data, on angel.co where the user need a CSV file from Linkedin if he wants to connect with his contacts. On the mobile version, these options are available too. If the file size is small, why not? Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 3:39

4 Answers 4


What does someone do with the .csv file? Does it make sense to download a .csv file on an Android device?

The answer to these questions should guide your solution.

One of the challenges with responsive design is working out what features should be available on desktop vs tablet vs smartphone.

Just because you can do something doesn't always mean it makes sense on a particular device.


I think Andre has the answer buried as a comment.

What would the user do if she downloaded a CSV on a phone? View it on the phone? That sounds like hell on earth.

I would guess, without knowing your app or user base but assuming it is enterprise/B2B, that if a user downloads a CSV the most common use case would be to email it to someone (maybe even herself?) for review on a desktop computer. So why not make the option "Email the CSV" and open the default mail program with the file already attached to a draft?

Of course this hypothesis should be tested!

  • I agree with the @Eric Stoltz's point of "Why would anyone view CSV files in mobile?" Give the user an option of emailing the file.
    – NB4
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 8:10

Why not keep the feature?

Update On the latest version of iOS serving up a CSV file will open in the browser as a table view, but offer up the user "More" options to save/share/air drop etc. But if the user has Apple's "Numbers" app (iOS 10+) it also gives an "Open in Numbers" option (the iOS equivalent of Excel)

I personally hate it when the mobile version of a website has dumbed down functionality and/or I have to switch to the full site just to make it useful.

For devices that handle this nicely and have a real file system (Android, BlackBerry, Windows, FirefoxOS...) they get the desired functionality out of the box. For iOS the user (depending on exact scenario/file type ) can "share" the file to DropBox or the cloud storage option of their choice, then download/view from there as and when desired.

Keep in mind that the user very likely works across multiple devices. I may trigger the download of files from my phone while browsing to work on them later on my laptop/tablet.

  • If the behaviour is for users to access the file later on another device wouldn't it make more sense to have the 'share' option on all mobile platforms and specifically target cloud storage providers? Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 14:21
  • Depends. If it is a "share" option built into the OS it is certainly helpful. However making a dependency on using a 3rd party cloud provider can be a deal breaker for those in restricted environments (gov, healthcare, military, high finance...) that can't pass data through 3rd parties. In the OP's case they already have the functionality to generate the file, I'm suggesting that they not take it away just because some mobile OSes don't have a user accessible file system cough iOS cough (he says typing on an iPhone)
    – scunliffe
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 15:13
  • 1
    I see. Maybe an email option would help in those cases. Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 15:24

Instead of removing/showing options depending on the platform, give all options and let the user choose.

If you're thinking of email as an alternative method, you can also imagine imagine desktop use cases where email would be useful; currently working on a different machine than usual, needing to share with a coworker, etc.

So instead of hiding options, merely sort them. List "download file" first on desktop but list "share via email" first on mobile. That is, if you insist on adapting at all; presenting the same exact list for both will work just fine and can arguably be better because it is more consistent.

Just have a few buttons, or a dropdown menu. No need to overcomplexify.

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